Rehoboth project prompts new ordinances

Bay Mart plan to be grandfathered; would restrict future proposals
September 6, 2016

A proposed 63-unit condominium development proposed for the Route 1 property known as Bay Mart in Rehoboth Beach has commanded the attention of the city commissioners in Rehoboth Beach.

Legal briefs are due later this month arguing whether the planned development is a subdivision. While that issue is debated, the commissioners will discuss changes to the subdivision ordinance at their monthly workshop meeting, at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the Rehoboth fire hall. The changes are aimed at clarifying zoning districts that are restricted to one building per lot and prohibiting private streets and regulating the principal entrance to one and two family dwellings.

Both of those changes are direct results of the BeachWalk project, a condominium development where developers are proposing to close access to the Route 1 entrance to the property. Traveling south on Route 1, motorists would access the development by making a U-turn on Route 1 followed by a quick right onto Terrace Road. The planned entrance to the 7.75-acre parcel is from Terrace Road, a design that has drawn the ire of nearby homeowners and others who have raised concerns over traffic and safety.

BeachWalk is also proposing two, private, 20-foot-wide pathways to access the units - 58 single-family units and five multifamily units. Police Chief Keith Banks and fire Chief Chatham Marsch spoke at a Aug. 12 planning commission meeting raising issues about inadequate access for emergency services.

Before heading to the planning commission, the BeachWalk project was denied a building permit by building inspector Dam Molina. Molina denied Beach Walk’s permit because, he said, Beach Walk was not allowed to have more than one main building on a lot. Molina’s decision was based on a footnote in the R-1(S) section of the city zoning code, designed to limit the number of buildings on lots in certain parts of the city. Molina’s decision was appealed to the board of adjustment.

The BeachWalk property is zoned C-1 commercial. Typically, under city code, residential development in a commercial district would be guided by the R-2 general residential regulations. But Beach Walk has been proposed as a condominium, not as a subdivision.

The board overturned Molina’s decision, saying the code was ambiguous and unclear. Mayor Sam Cooper says an ordinance is needed to clear up any ambiguities.

Cooper said his ordinance would remove the R-1(S) footnote that spells out no more than one building per lot and make it a section of the code applying it to certain zones. He said which zones would be debated and decided by the commissioners.

In addition, Cooper will propose an ordinance prohibiting private streets and establishing requirements for the main entrance to multi-unit developments.

Cooper said private streets are not in character with the city of Rehoboth. He said they will eventually fall into disrepair, and condo owners will seek help from the city to repair them. He said there is no way for the city to ensure safety - such as police and fire protection - on private streets because the city would not have right-of-way.

As for the regulations on entrances, Cooper said he would propose that the main entrance to a multi-unit property would lie within 100 feet of a public street.

At their Aug. 8 meeting, the commissioners discussed crafting a planned community ordinance to better regulate proposals such as BeachWalk. Cooper said that idea was scrapped because it would take a great deal of time to work through. He said proposed ordinances allow the city to work through two key issues more quickly.

Cooper said the proposed changes will not apply to the BeachWalk project because it would be considered grandfathered.

Whether BeachWalk will make it through the planning commission’s site-plan review process has yet to be determined. Legal briefs on whether Beach Walk is a subdivision will be submitted by the commission’s Friday, Sept. 23 meeting. If the commission deems the project a subdivision, BeachWalk would have to have larger streets and fewer homes on the lot in order to comply with the major subdivision code, which mandates setbacks and street size.

Chairman David Mellen said the legal briefs will become a matter of public record and will be formally debated at the commission’s Friday, Oct. 21 meeting.

BeachWalk attorney Dennis Schrader - who did not make a full presentation on the project at the Aug. 12 meeting - said he would comply with the commission’s request, although he added, “A lot of the questions asked by the public and others could have been answered by us, but were not.”

 Rehoboth commissioners to continue brewpub talks

Besides the ordinances sparked by the Beach Walk project, Rehoboth commissioners will continue discussion of brewpubs and the size of restaurants that serve alcohol at their 9 a.m, Wednesday, Sept. 7 meeting.

In new business, the commissioners will discuss a draft ordinance that would make violations of the permitted hours of construction into a civil offense. In concurrence, the commissioners will discuss an ordinance that would grant authority to building and licensing department personnel to issue civil citations for certain offenses. Finally, the commissioner will discuss an ordinance making the property maintenance code its own section of the city code.

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